Year in school will only help players

D.J. Johnson and D.J. Johnson

For those of us who have already made the turbulent journey from high school to college, there is little looking back. If high school was an appetizer, Bowling Green State University is the drool-inducing entrée. It’s like living life in a utopia, where everyone within a two mile radius is within a four years age difference. In a world defined by keg stands, specialized education and a plethora of potential significant others, it’s hard for any of us Falcons to wonder why anyone would want anything different.

With that being said, there is yet another world (a vast one, at that) whose life goals do not include an extra year of calculus. Many people will find perfectly good jobs without stepping foot onto a college campus, but one career path will no longer be given a choice.

This group will be required at least one year in college, and that is the job of the professional basketball player.

Approximately one year ago, David Stern and the NBA required that to be eligible for the NBA Draft, each individual must wait at least one year after their high school graduating class walks the stage. No longer will we have an organization where some men are so young that they are only months removed from being able to smoke cigarettes. The NBA believes that the year between high school graduation and a career in the NBA will behoove everyone involved.

Last year’s decision was met with criticism, but in all fairness, Mr. Stern can’t leave his own residence without someone complaining. On basketball message boards and sport talk radio, this new policy has been accused of being racist. Since international players have a less restrictive policy (they must be 19 at the end of a given year to be eligible) to play in the NBA and since the overwhelming majority of men who jump from high school to college are black, Stern has it in for the African-American community. These claims are conspiracy theories at best.

Other critics say that these players are losing out on considerable income. Still, more say they are losing out on a year where they are in potentially the best playing shape of their lives.

These minor quibbles pale in comparison to what this greater good can provide, and if a high school demigod decides to use his year wisely and attend even one year of college, it could prove to be the most beneficial decision of his pre-NBA career.

There’s little possibility that a high school student who could have gone pro after his senior year in high school will not find a university across the country that isn’t going to pay for every cent of his collegiate experience. Had LeBron been affected by this new policy, there would have been a nationwide brawl of talent scouts in Akron, Ohio that year.

By deciding to go to college, he would also receive instant exposure to financial paperwork, whether it be in the form of scholarship applications or grant forms. Whereas it probably isn’t the same as signing one’s name to a contract, small procedures like these will slowly teach a given individual how things work.

Playing and (presumably) starting on a basketball team with players that he’s never played with and playing under the direction of a new coach will break him out of the superstar mold he’s likely accustomed to. Chances are that he’s only played competitive basketball under one high school head coach and with the same players for three to four years.

Even if he played for years in an Amateur Athletic Union league, playing on a college level will be a completely new experience for him. He can take what he has learned throughout his life and apply it to a team he may or may not stay with for more than a year.

It’s being able to adapt to new environments that continues to mold athletes. In this case, it would make them ready to play in the big leagues. This could explain why James might have raw talent, but Dwayne Wade is still in the playoffs.

With the upcoming draft in sight, NBA teams have already spent countless hours on University campuses, hoping to find the next starting player in their midst. The men they will be watching will have spent four years in high school and at least one or two with a new team in which they literally had to shift from one style of playing basketball to a completely new one. Their ability to adapt is, at the end of the day, what will put them above the rest.

Then, there’s the best (yet cliché) reason of going to college, and that’s to give students who might not have been able to get an opportunity to get a four-year education to do so. It’s known that not everyone makes it to the NBA, and even the “prep to pro” stars don’t always make it as far as they’d hoped. So, why not take advantage of the University’s kindness of paying all of your tuition and get a degree that might enhance your life? The idea is flawless.

The one year sabbatical, then, has some usefulness. And who knows? They might even enjoy themselves for a year or so.

Send comments to D.J. at [email protected]